9 Must-See Insights from The 2022 Bicycling Study

Bicycling’s popularity in the United States has surged over the past decade, becoming an increasingly mainstream recreation and transportation option thanks to revitalized city infrastructure, bike shares, e-bikes, and shifting attitudes toward sustainability.

But where exactly does bicycling stand in 2022 as far as participation rates, demographics, Trip safety perceptions, infrastructure access, and other key indicators of the cycling landscape?

The 2022 U.S. Bicycling Participation Study from PeopleForBikes—a nonprofit that does critical work to improve cycling for all—provides a detailed statistical snapshot of bicycling and extensive insights into current trends.

As a lifelong cycling enthusiast always eager to absorb bicycling data and insights, I eagerly pored over this year’s findings.

The picture that emerged is nuanced—showcasing encouraging bicycling growth yet also underlining areas needing attention around safety, equitable access, youth engagement, infrastructure connectivity, and more.

Let’s take a deep dive into the most noteworthy statistics defining the state of American bicycling today and what they bode for the future.

Section 1: Participation and Ridership Frequency

Bicycling Popularity Hits All-Time Highs

The headline statistic that jumped out right away was bicycling participation reaching impressive new heights.

In 2022, a full 34% of Americans ages 3 and up—totaling 108 million people nationwide—reported riding a bicycle outdoors at least once over the previous year.

34% of Americans (108. million) rode a bicycle in the past year

This 34% yearly participation rate equals the previous high found in 2014, proving bicycling has regained serious momentum after a slight dip in 2016 and 2018.

With more protected lanes, public bike shares, recreation paths, and overall infrastructure investments made in cities across America over the past decade, it’s uplifting to see people taking to two wheels in such record numbers.

Of course, bicycling participation varies across states and metro regions based on existing infrastructure and local cycling culture.

But in the big picture, the data shows cycling becoming an increasingly mainstream recreation and transportation choice as infrastructure and attitudes evolve.

To me, crossing the 100 million rider threshold is a real testament to the positive impacts we’ve achieved through advocacy and urban planning.

The 108 million bicycling participants calculated this year demonstrates tangible demand.

My hope is it galvanizes further infrastructure expansion, policy updates, and mainstream cultural acceptance of bicycles as a viable transit option.

That said, bicycling still lags far behind daily walking (76% participation) and weekly driving (88% participation) among American adults.

So substantial room remains to grow cycling’s modal share and realize its many benefits through ongoing improvement efforts nationwide.

But this year’s participation figures confirm an encouraging upward trajectory for cycling overall.

The Growth of Bicycling for Transportation

Within bicycling’s expanding participation, one trend that jumped out was the increasing use of bicycles specifically for practical transportation rather than solely recreation.

Over half—54%—of bike riders in 2022 reported using their bicycles for transportation needs like commuting, running errands, and connecting to public transit.

This transportation cycling participation rate actually hit an all-time high this year, which is likely no coincidence given the acceleration in cities nationwide building more bike lanes, paths, parking, and other infrastructure tailored specifically for transportation usage.

The synchronicity seems to prove investments in safe, dedicated bike infrastructure and networks directly translate to higher utilization for daily travel needs.

It’s a powerful validation of the famous adage—“if you build it, they will ride.”

As someone who first adopted regular bicycling by using it for weekday commuting, I’m encouraged to see transportation cycling surging thanks to expanded infrastructure accommodating it.

Of course, recreational cycling still represents 30% of participation, confirming off-road paths catering to weekend warriors remain important too.

Balancing recreation and transportation infrastructure is ideal.

But the transportation cycling growth suggests American attitudes are shifting to embrace human-powered and sustainable transit modes for practical reasons beyond just exercise.

It also indicates urban planners have made progress adapting streets for safe, dedicated bicycle access and connectivity.

We still have a long road ahead, but crossing the 50% transportation cycling threshold this year is real progress.

When looking closer at riders who use bikes for transportation like commuting, an interesting trend emerges related to frequency.

While overall transportation cycling participation grew to new highs, the share who ride frequently for transportation has slowly declined over time.

Back in 2014, 36% of transportation cyclists reported riding 30 days or more annually for commuting or errands.

But in 2022, that share dropped to 30%—even as participation grew.

Instead, occasional transportation cycling (1 to 24 days per year) has steadily increased, reaching 71% of transportation riders this year.

This trend indicates newer entrants into transportation cycling tend to be more sporadic or situation-based riders initially.

But outreach and infrastructure that helps convert them into regular bike commuters could provide huge growth potential.

After all, frequent bike commuters make up the most essential core of a thriving transportation cycling culture.

Shifting occasional transportation riders into consistent bicycle commuters requires addressing barriers like lack of shower facilities or secure parking at offices.

But the payoff makes it well worth the effort for cities, companies, and advocacy groups.

Because replacing even relatively few car trips with bike trips can yield sustainability, congestion relief, public health, and other collective benefits.

On the recreation bicycling side, participation remained steady compared to recent years at 30% of Americans riding for exercise, fun, or leisure in 2022.

However, similar frequency trends emerged among recreational riders.

The percentage of riding recreationally 30 days or more annually decreased from 41% of recreation cyclists in 2014 down to 34% in 2022.

Like with transportation cycling, this indicates newer recreational riders tend to participate sporadically at first.

Converting more of these occasional riders into moderately frequent or committed cyclists through welcoming group rides, social cycling clubs, skill-building classes, and improved park/trail systems seems prudent.

Because consistent recreation riders are most likely to reap meaningful fitness and mental health benefits while building advocacy voices.

Weekend warrior cyclists also play an important role in funding bike shops, races/events, park systems, and even advocacy work through their steady economic contributions.

So again, shifting sporadic pedalers into routine recreation riders offers advantages even if achieving it requires investment.

Among child cyclists specifically, the pattern of drifting towards more occasional riding held true.

In 2022, 50% of youth riders were reported riding 30 days or more yearly, down from 70% in 2014.

This likely reflects the overall decline in youth cycling participation, meaning those still riding do so less consistently.

Interestingly, adult bicycling frequency held steadier over time.

For example, the share of adult riders cycling 25 to 103 days annually changed little from 25% in 2014 to 24% in 2022.

So the youth frequency declines have more meaning and demand attention.

The share of adult riders cycling 25 to 103 days annually changed a little from 25% in 2014 to 24% in 2022

Of course, adult cycling participation grew over this timeframe while youth declined.

But restoring both youth participation and frequent youth ridership is important for public health, Transportation development, sustainability efforts, and the future of cycling overall.

It seems ensuring kids can access bicycles easily, have safe places to ride, and acquire skills/experience that breeds enjoyment and habit-forming could help not just boost participation but also consistent riding.

Because consistent youth riders become better adult riders and advocates.

Ridership Takeaways

Stepping back, bicycling participation hitting decade highs confirms cycling’s upward trajectory, even if work remains to bring more groups and geographies into the fold.

The nuances related to frequency and transportation vs. recreation riding illuminate areas for improvement.

But overall, more Americans embracing bicycling for both practicality and enjoyment is great for public health, sustainable mobility, economic impacts, and more.

Laying groundwork so bicycling participation and frequency continue rising in years ahead needs to be the priority.

The 2022 bicycling statistics clearly validate the investments made and progress achieved in many communities.

They also showcase where opportunities exist, especially related to newer cyclists and youth.

Keeping participation and frequency climbing through inclusive programs and infrastructure is how we secure cycling’s bright future.

Section 2: Ridership Demographics and Equity Gaps

Income Disparities in Bicycling Rates

While the broader participation trends paint an optimistic picture for cycling momentum, the 2022 report highlighted some concerning equity gaps in ridership rates across income levels and demographics.

One statistic illuminating these inequities:

Middle-income Americans displayed lower bicycling participation rates than lower-income and higher-income groups.

Specifically, the 2022 findings show:

  • 39% participation among Americans earning under $20K household income
  • 35% participation for incomes between $20K and $39,999
  • 31% participation for incomes between $40K and $59,999
  • 34% participation for incomes between $60K and $99,999
  • 37% participation among incomes above $100K

This indicates bicycling is not yet truly equitable or accessible across income levels, with middle-income groups lagging despite their strong potential clout if tapped into.

As we strive towards diverse, democratized cycling, ensuring people across the income spectrum can take part needs to stay top of mind.

Of course, the lower participation rates among middle-income Americans are not that surprising when you consider the barriers faced.

Lower-income groups often have fewer transportation options, live in dense urban areas, and use bicycles out of necessity.

Meanwhile, higher-income Americans tend to have a greater ability to afford high-quality bikes/gear, dedicate time towards recreation, and live in neighborhoods with quality infrastructure.

Middle-income earners often juggle more family and work commitments while lacking the financial flexibility of high-income peers.

Still, this income segment represents massive untapped potential, both in voting power to fund smart bicycling policy and programs and in actual ridership if cycling is made practical for their lifestyles and constraints.

So tailored outreach and infrastructure investments supporting transportation and family cycling should target middle-income neighborhoods that frequently get overlooked.

Safe routes to school programs, bike parking at community hubs, subsidized e-bike access, and weekend group rides may resonate.

Building this constituency could truly take bicycling participation mainstream.

Youth Ridership Declines

In addition to income disparities, declining youth ridership poses equity issues given bicycling’s developmental and health benefits for kids.

As noted in Section 1, the share of older children ages 10 to 17 who cycled fell substantially from 56% in 2016 down to just 47% in 2022.

Younger kids (ages 3-9) participation dropped as well, from 61% to 53%.

This means huge swaths of youth are missing out on the joy and life skills gained through regular cycling before even becoming adults.

Younger kids (ages 3-9) participation dropped from 61% to 53%

And kids from underserved communities likely make up an outsized share of non-riders, exacerbating equity gaps.

Restoring youth ridership rates through inclusive programs and infrastructure needs to become a priority nationally.

Some promising steps communities can take include:

  • Expanding bicycling curriculum and clubs through schools
  • Offering learn-to-ride classes via parks departments
  • Distributing free or discounted helmets to lower-income families
  • Creating more protected bike lanes and family-friendly cycling paths
  • Prioritizing bike parking at community hubs like libraries
  • Making bicycling a standard part of PE classes
  • Partnering on youth development events with local advocacy chapters

Starting kids of all backgrounds on a lifelong path of bicycling benefits should be imperative in any city or region’s goals.

Ridership Gaps Across Demographics

In addition to income and youth disparities, the report confirms bicycling participation gaps across other demographic factors like gender, race/ethnicity, region, and political affiliation.

For example, 27% of women cycled in 2022 versus 40% of men.

27% of women cycled in 2022 versus 40% of men.

And Hispanic Americans displayed the highest ridership at 39%, compared to 30% for Black Americans and 34% for White Americans.

Ridership varied from 37% in the West down to 30% in the Midwest and South too.

While these gaps are closing gradually over time as diversity slowly improves, ensuring equitable access and representation across gender, racial, geographic, and other demographic lines remains vital for realizing bicycling’s full potential.

This requires understanding and addressing the unique barriers different groups face, through both programming and infrastructure.

For instance, boosting female ridership may require a focus on safety via protected lanes, lighting, and design that factors in concerns over harassment.

Language-accessible education and multi-modal integration can help engage immigrant communities.

Events celebrating Black or Hispanic cycling culture could build momentum.

The needs are wide-ranging.

But pursuing an equitable bicycling culture must start with listening to impacted groups and understanding intersections between demographics, constraints, and barriers.

The ongoing participation disparities confirm work is still needed to make cycling truly welcoming and accessible community-wide.

Building Inclusive Participation

While bicycling ridership overall has gradually grown more diverse since 2014, substantial gaps across demographic lines persist, underscoring the need to accelerate progress in making cycling welcoming and accessible.

For example, female participation decreased from 30% of riders in 2014 to 27% in 2022.

This troubling trend highlights ongoing constraints faced by women in adopting riding.

Female participation decreased from 30% in 2014 to 27% in 2022

Similarly, Hispanic ridership decreased from 43% in 2014 to 39% in 2022, despite this group’s previously strong participation.

Increased outreach may be needed.

However, moderate gains occurred in bridging age gaps, as participation among older Americans increased slightly.

Regionally, ridership growth in the Northeast and Midwest also points to slowly broadening appeal.

But significant disparities remain across income, race, age, gender, ability, geographic, and other demographic factors.

The 2022 statistics make clear that equity and inclusion cannot be an afterthought.

Intentionally listening to marginalized groups and enacting policies that dismantle barriers must be priorities going forward.

Realizing the full benefits of cycling relies on widespread access.

Making bicycling universally welcoming demands persistent awareness, commitment, and action.

The uneven progress to date highlights the substantial work still needed to achieve inclusive bicycling cultures.

Growing Safety Concerns

In addition to highlighting ongoing equity gaps, the 2022 bicycling report revealed some concerning trends regarding public perceptions of bicycling safety.

After years of slow but steady increases in Americans feeling safe on bikes, sentiment reversed between 2020 and 2022.

For example, the share of people expressing worries about being struck by a motor vehicle while cycling increased from 47% in 2020 up to 52% in 2022—reversing momentum.

And concerns about crime and personal safety like theft or assault also rose from 33% to 38% over just two years.

Seeing these safety perception declines was surprising considering many communities accelerated building bike infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it confirms lasting work is needed to protect cyclists and foster welcoming environments that provide legitimate refuge from cars and crime.

Without that, tapping bicycling’s potential will remain difficult.

For riders like myself, the threat of collisions with inattentive or aggressive drivers is real and ever-present.

And stories of bike theft and trail harassment erode the freedom we hope cycling brings.

So I’m glad PeopleForBikes highlighted the increased safety concerns because it demands renewed urgency in designing complete, protected mobility networks.

Cycling should evoke freedom—not fear.

Achieving that requires policy change, driver education, diversion paths, ample lighting, visibility infrastructure, bike parking security, and robust enforcement.

The rising worries spotlight where we are falling short in providing legitimate safety.

Fixing that can and must be done.

Infrastructure Perceptions

Beyond generalized safety worries, public sentiment specifically around local bicycle infrastructure quality remained lackluster in the report findings.

Just 32% of Americans expressed satisfaction with existing bike lanes, paths, and trails in their area.

This modest rating confirms most see significant room for infrastructure improvements even amidst recent expansions.

It also indicates opportunities exist to better educate residents about nearby cycling options, since just 46% felt knowledgeable about local paths and routes.

Optimizing awareness and access of current infrastructure while relentlessly pursuing connectivity and quality improvements seem like obvious takeaways.

Cities should treat every neighborhood like potential cyclists await if given safe opportunities.

Incorporating indications like perceived infrastructure satisfaction into policy and planning decisions just makes practical sense too.

Because riders themselves should inform where gaps exist or upgrades are needed—their feedback is invaluable.

Leveraging tools like citywide surveys, reporting tools, and crowdsourced input on infrastructure perceptions could provide crucial ground truthing to make investments and communications more bike-friendly and responsive.

Listening to the cycling community needs to guide the way forward.

To glean why more Americans are riding bikes, the report examined common motivations and barriers influencing decisions to cycle or not.

Among active cyclists, recreational enjoyment and exercise unsurprisingly remain top motivators along with environmental and health factors.

But ease and convenience are playing an increasing role in ridership, confirming urban mobility improvements like bike lanes do influence decisions to ride.

Being close to work and shops also motivates newer cyclists.

Among non-cyclists however, motivations tilted more towards factors like retirement flexibility, medical restrictions fading, or environmental concerns.

Cost savings from commuting also rarely discouraged riding a bike.

These insights suggest practical concerns beyond just disinterest or ability frequently inhibit potential cyclists.

Removing obstacles by improving infrastructure and safety could better activate that latent demand.

And given health and environmental motivations resonate across groups, those messages could shift perceptions.

The diversity of barriers shows the value of listening directly to non-cyclists in each community to design solutions that genuinely address constraints.

While no single approach will engage everyone, the collective gains from converting even small percentages via targeted problem-solving could be immense.

Building momentum across diverse motivation segments should guide infrastructure planning and outreach.

Giving people more reason and opportunity to ride through inclusive engagement is key.

The Safety in Numbers Phenomenon

An interesting related trend is the “safety in numbers” dynamic evident in rider perceptions.

As bicycling participation has risen in recent years, the perceived risk and safety concerns reported among active cyclists have declined.

Essentially, existing cyclists worry less the more commonplace cycling becomes in their community, thanks to strength in numbers and improved cultural acceptance.

This confirms a virtuous cycle often occurs when ridership grows.

However, new or potential cyclists entering the mix express greater worries about safety and barriers to adoption until infrastructure catches up with higher demand.

That explains the divergence in safety perceptions between years.

The takeaway seems to be fostering an inclusive cycling culture takes continued progress on multiple fronts—both expanding infrastructure and building strength in numbers through diverse ridership growth and mainstream acceptance.

Neither one alone fully reassures concerned new riders based on the trends.

Maintaining focus on both welcoming newcomers and steadfastly improving conditions remains imperative.

Beyond participation frequencies and perceptions, the 2022 bicycling report provides helpful snapshots into bike ownership and equipment access trends across American households.

Around half of households own at least one adult bike, while 70% with children have kids’ bikes—figures fairly consistent over recent years.

And the vast majority of owned bikes are reported as operational.

All signs of robust and steady access.

Among households with non-working bikes, tires, and chains were the most commonly cited repair needs.

These basics seeming to inhibit usage points to opportunities helping households maintain bikes more routinely.

Community tune-up clinics, mobile bike shops, discounted parts days, and do-it-yourself maintenance education could go a long way toward optimizing bike fleet readiness across neighborhoods.

Because keeping existing bikes rolling should be a priority.

Relatedly, a trend of more cyclists transporting bikes using vehicles emerged, with 43% doing so at least once a month compared to just 32% in 2014.

This likely reflects riders taking bikes to trailheads or safer riding locations.

Cyclists transporting bikes using vehicles emerged, with 43% doing so at least once a month compared to just 32% in 2014

Accommodating secure bike transportation needs through racks on buses and trains could further empower cyclists to access great rides.

And bike parking installations should focus on popular trailheads or transit connections.

Overall, the gear access statistics indicate no major bike shortages currently inhibit would-be riders.

But community support empowering residents to fix, transport and store bikes could maximize usage of the fleet Americans already own.

Doing so provides inexpensive ridership gains.

While the report did not track e-bike metrics specifically, PeopleForBikes notes clear growth in e-bike ownership and usage nationwide in recent years based on other research.

E-bikes seemingly represent an ideal way to reduce barriers to bicycle adoption, given their pedal assist for uphill climbs or longer distances.

Integrating them thoughtfully into infrastructure plans and policies can only help grow cycling participation.

Other promising trends called out include proliferating bike share systems in major cities, continued innovation in route-mapping apps and sensors, park and pathway investments, vision zero campaigns, and growing corporate wellness prioritization of cycling.

Momentum across these areas should expand access and opportunity dramatically.

Capturing more data to quantify impacts can help inform how to accelerate progress.

Section 4: The Path Forward for Bicycling

Key Infrastructure and Policy Priorities

Stepping back, what overarching infrastructure and policy priorities could help bicycling participation and frequency continue climbing in years ahead based on the 2022 trends?

A few priority focus areas stand out:

  • Expanding protected bicycling networks: Protected lanes and trails minimizing interactions with vehicles are crucial for safety and welcoming new riders. They should be anchor points connecting communities.
  • Improving trail systems: Off-road paths for recreation and mobility provide huge value. Prioritizing connectivity, mapping, and maintenance should remain core priorities.
  • Integrating bicycling with mass transit: Bike access to transit stops and bringing bikes onboard trains and buses extends mobility dramatically. Make doing so seamless.
  • Investing in youth programs: From school curriculum to learn-to-ride classes to family clinics and events, getting kids cycling sets lifelong habits.
  • Supporting e-bikes: Thoughtfully incorporating e-bikes into infrastructure plans, policies and rental systems can make bicycling practical for more people.
  • Fostering workplace cycling: Incentivizing bike commuting through office policies, benefits and facilities helps normalize bicycling.
  • Promoting equitable access: Take intentional steps to dismantle barriers to bicycling through programming and infrastructure in underserved neighborhoods.
  • Listening to community voices: Seek direct public input to guide investments towards greatest needs and concerns.
  • Improving data tracking: Collect robust bicycling data to benchmark progress. Fill information gaps.
  • Marketing the benefits: Communicate bicycling’s health, environmental, social and economic benefits to shift perceptions.

No single solution will elevate bicycling nationwide.

But pursuing a combination of thoughtful infrastructure expansions, policy updates, public education campaigns, and inclusion programs can make meaningful compounding impacts over time.

The Power of People-First Solutions

As cities and advocacy groups work to boost bicycling participation, remembering that diverse human needs and constraints determine adoption is wise.

Avoid looking at cycling primarily through the lens of capital projects, network maps, or density statistics.

Listen first to the people bicycling is meant to serve, especially underrepresented voices often overlooked.

Understand barriers through their lived experiences.

Then respond with solutions designed to be welcoming, safe, accessible, and inclusive.

When diverse communities shape progress based on their needs and feedback, the outcomes inevitably lift up everyone compared to top-down technocratic approaches.

People-first bicycling policies make the world more just, sustainable and livable.

So leverage public engagement tools like surveys, focus groups and participatory budgeting.

Build equity into processes early through inclusion.

And let community priorities and constraints guide investments.

That is how to build trust and ridership.

Because bicycling at its best is about empowering people’s health, mobility, economic opportunity and freedom.

Never lose sight of the humans at the heart of it all.

The Bright Future Ahead

Reviewing the extensive 2022 bicycling participation data and trends provides an invaluable gauge on where cycling stands today in America and what it could become if momentum continues building.

The record ridership numbers and growth in transportation cycling speak to how far we have come.

But disparities across groups and rising safety concerns confirm much important work remains.

Still, the richness of the data collected by PeopleForBikes and passion that groups like this have to expand access gives me great confidence in bicycling’s bright future.

Each year we gain ground thanks to evolving attitudes, infrastructure gains, demographic shifts and innovations.

By learning from the data patterns and intentionally addressing barriers, enormous potential exists in 21st-century American bicycling.

Imagining a nation where one-day cycling is truly safe, equitable, accessible, and embraced everywhere inspires me.

The 2022 bicycling trends and insights bring us modestly closer to realizing that vision if we have the courage to listen, learn and lead.

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Joey B. Ramsey
Passionate cyclist, father, and blogger.
I've been riding bikes since childhood and enjoy sharing my knowledge with fellow cycling enthusiasts.
My diverse bike collection allows me to write reviews and advice based on personal experience with various bikes and accessories.
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